Tag Archives: The Washington Post

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Finally, tax policy is on the agenda

Dear Research Advocate:

What will determine the speed and scope of medical progress in the years to come? There is more to it than the essential ingredients of money and brainpower.

Sound tax policy is essential if we are to propel medical progress.

Yesterday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-04), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a comprehensive tax reform bill. While the prospects for passage during this election year are — to put a positive spin on it — uncertain, Congressman Camp laid down the gauntlet for much-needed tax and entitlement reform, and he also proposed making the R&D tax credit permanent. Uncertainty surrounding future access to the R&D tax credit has reduced its power to drive private sector R&D investment. While the Camp bill does not contain the ideal package of changes needed to optimize the usefulness of the credit, and in fact contains some potential setbacks, his decision to support making the R&D tax credit permanent sets the stage for finally achieving this long-standing goal.

Scientists, physicians and patients must all work to increase clinical trial participation.

In a recent Washington Post op-ed, a personal hero of mine, former Surgeon General and CDC Director David Satcher, MD, discusses the importance of African-Americans contributing to medical progress by participating in clinical research. Using Alzheimer’s disease as a lens, he argues that adequate research funding is not the only imperative; individuals must be willing to volunteer for clinical trials. Participation is especially valuable for racial and ethnic groups who have much to gain as health disparities persist, but who understandably remember mistreatment in trials in the past. Polling commissioned by Research!America has affirmed this lack of trust but also, importantly, has revealed that African-Americans in particular say they want to help others by participating in trials. We also learned from our polls that most Americans, across all demographics, look to their physicians to be the touchpoint for learning about clinical trial participation.

Improved scientist engagement with the public and policy makers is essential.

Medical research stands a better chance of becoming a higher national priority if people can connect meaningfully to scientists. As Alan Alda said at the annual AAAS meeting last week, and in an interview with Claudia Dreifus in The New York Times, “How are scientists going to get money from policy makers if our leaders and legislators can’t understand what they do?” He and his colleagues at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook use of the some of the same approaches we do to help the science community connect with non-scientists in ways that can truly move mountains. Alda adds a passion for science with dramatic talent for a skill set we can all learn from.

Media attention — old school and new school — is key.

Both traditional and social media play a role in the fate of U.S. medical progress because of their ability to call public and policy maker attention to possibilities and stumbling blocks. Research!America and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hosted a media luncheon today to discuss the challenges involved in turning cancer, in all its insidious forms, into a manageable chronic condition. It was reinforced to us that journalists’ questions are good markers of questions the public in general are raising; it’s important for scientists and advocates to listen and respond. Sometimes we fall into the pattern of just repeating our own messages louder and louder, but we should instead step back and listen to the sometimes-challenging questions being raised by media as they seek to inform the public. All of us who care about the future of research for health should seek out opportunities to engage with journalists. Contact us for suggestions on how to get started!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Research!America Releases New NTD Fact Sheet

Brian Vastag, science reporter at The Washington Post, recently found himself infected with the very disease he had been reporting on for months: West Nile virus. Detailing the raging fevers, interrupted sleep patterns and tingling in his arms and feet, he called himself a “West Nile zombie.” Brian’s story highlights the importance of research to develop new prevention, diagnostic and treatment methods for West Nile virus. It took eight weeks and several doctors before an infectious-disease specialist was able to correctly diagnose him with West Nile. Once diagnosed, he still had to endure the fevers, joint aches, headaches and interrupted work and simply wait for the virus to go away on its own. Beyond the agonizing symptoms of the disease, it was estimated that in 2002, West Nile cost the United States about $200 million in direct medical costs. Considering 2012 is on record to be the deadliest year we’ve seen, one can only imagine the medical costs of West Nile this year. As Brian points out in the article, we must acknowledge the true costs of these diseases. Research to develop a West Nile vaccine would not only save lives, but would save millions of dollars in future health care costs and lost worker productivity. Similarly, better diagnostic and treatment options would allow doctors to identify the virus sooner and more effectively treat patients.

In an effort to increase awareness about the importance of research for West Nile and other neglected tropical diseases, Research!America has released a new fact sheet called “NTDs in the United States.” The fact sheet details the burden of NTDs here at home and highlights important NTD research activities in the U.S. To see the fact sheet and learn more about NTDs, please visit www.researchamerica.org/gh_ntds.

-Morgan McCloskey, global health intern